Marco Melandri has confirmed that he will leave MotoGP after this season, having signed to race for the factory Yamaha team in World Superbikes.
Melandri's current team Gresini Honda announced earlier today that the 28-year-old Italian would depart its fold at the end of the year. He had initially been expected to sign for BMW's Superbike programme, but has now been announced as a Yamaha rider, taking the seat vacated by Cal Crutchlow's switch to MotoGP with Tech 3 Yamaha.
"Marco is a great signing for the World Superbike team," said Yamaha Motor Europe Racing boss Laurens Klein Koerkamp.
"He has massive experience at the pinnacle of motorcycle racing and is extremely motivated to have the opportunity to challenge for race wins again."
Melandri acknowledged that the lack of chances to fight at the front in MotoGP had motivated his change of career path.
"It was a difficult decision because this is the best team I have worked with in my career," said Melandri of Gresini.
"But I felt that I needed a new challenge and the genuine opportunity to be back fighting for wins and podiums led me to make this choice."
The Italian has been in MotoGP since 2003, when he joined the works Yamaha team as reigning 250cc champion. His first podium finishes did not come until a move to Tech 3 Yamaha the following year, but it was when he joined Gresini in 2005 that his career really took off, as he won twice and finished second in the championship behind Valentino Rossi.
After three years with Gresini, he signed for Ducati for 2008 but failed to gel with the bike and had an awful season. He spent 2009 on the Hayate Kawasaki – having signed for the Japanese firm just before it pulled the plug on its works MotoGP team – then returned to Gresini this year, although the season has been largely underwhelming so far.
"I'm glad that we were able to spend another season together because we are great friends and I hope that we can achieve the results that have eluded us so far in what remains of the championship," said team boss Fausto Gresini. "I encourage him to take on his next challenge with great determination and I am sure he can be as successful there as he was with us in 2005, 2006 and 2007."